Is Big Pharma Winning the Battle Against E-Cigarettes?

Over the past few years, electronic cigarettes have become increasingly popular, drawing a lot of attention from the media and curious smokers. In a recent national survey, ecig awareness had sharply risen from five years ago. However, fewer people view ecigs as less harmful than tobacco. As Big Pharma pushes to discredit ecigs, is this survey evidence that they are winning the war?

Just five years ago, only 16 percent of surveyed Americans had heard of electronic cigarettes. Recently, the American Journal of Preventative Medicine published an updated survey of 3,630 American adults. This new study found that 77 percent of those surveyed had heard of electronic cigarettes. That is a dramatic shift that shows a growing awareness of vaping across the country. Five years ago, 84 percent of participants believed that ecigs were less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. However, the recent survey showed that only 65 percent still hold this view. While the majority still views electronic cigarettes as a less harmful option, the number of skeptics is growing.

The survey was pioneered by Dr. Andy Tan from the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication and Dr. Cabral Bigman, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois-Champaign. The researchers collected data using a mail-in survey and compared the newest statistics with those from older studies. The current participants included men and women, with nearly two-thirds being college educated Caucasians. Around 58 percent of participants were non-smokers. Researchers reported that e-cig awareness was lowest among participants that were older, non-white, and had less education.

The growing ecig awareness isn’t really surprising. There are now more than 5,000 ecig shops in the United States with total sales topping $1.7 billion. “Given the rapidly evolving landscape in advertising and media coverage of e-cigarettes, the first objective of this study is to describe the prevalence of awareness and perceived harmfulness of e-cigarettes,” the researchers explained. Dr. Tan and Dr. Bigman have expressed concern that the increasing availability of ecigs might pose a threat to public health. At this time, they felt there was not clear research to demonstrate whether vaping was effective for smoking cessation, although we know this to be false. There have been multiple studies that proved ecigs were helpful for smokers that were trying to quit and vaping even helped prevent relapses to cigarette use.

This latest survey is certainly concerning. While most people still view ecigs as less harmful than smoking, Big Pharma has definitely made some progress in convincing people that ecigs are not a good option. So why are pharmaceutical companies working so hard to discredit ecigs? It all boils down to money. If people believe ecigs are effective for smoking cessation, they will rely on vaping rather than expensive prescription drugs and nicotine replacement therapies. This causes a massive hit to the bottom line for drug companies that rely on ineffective smoking cessation tools for a profit.

These drugs simply don’t work in most cases. If they were successful, we would have noticed thousands of smokers that were suddenly cigarette free. Instead, we see frustrated smokers wearing nicotine patches and chewing nicotine gums for weeks or months at a time, while they still battle the urge to smoke. On the flip side, ecig users report numerous health benefits after they make the switch.

Big Pharma is certainly not done in their fight to discredit ecigarettes. However, we can do a lot of damage control just by dispelling myths and spreading the real research about ecigarettes.

Do you think the recent survey is concerning? What are some ways that you see Bi Pharma working to discredit ecigs?

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Author Focus: Katie Bercham
Katie actually had a negative first experience of electronic cigarettes, picking up a cheap and horrible model from my local mall. Thanks to a chance meeting with co-editor David, she hasn’t had a tobacco cigarette in over 2 years. She brings a strong female voice to the e-cig community... Read Full Profile >